Image of the Day: Dinosaur Tracks
Image of the Day: Dinosaur Tracks

Image of the Day: Dinosaur Tracks

Footprints in southern Africa’s Karoo Basin show mammals and dinosaurs navigating a “land of fire,” as researchers describe the volcanic landscape.

Amy Schleunes
Amy Schleunes
Feb 4, 2020
ABOVE: Dinosaur tracks at the Highlands farm in South Africa from a newly named four-legged herbivore, Afrodelatorrichnus ellenbergeri
E.M. BORDY ET AL., PLOS ONE, 15:e0226847, 2020

Sedimentologist Emese Bordy of the University of Capetown and colleagues have located 25 fossilized footprintssfrom prehistoric animals on a farm in South Africa, they reported January 29 in PLOS ONE

Left 183 million years ago during a dramatic geological time marked by volcanic eruptions, the smallest prints are thought to be from quadrupedal synapsids, a group that includes both pre-mammals and mammals, while the largest, at 5.5 inches long, are likely from bipedal dinosaurs, such as Coelophysis, which were common during the Early Jurassic in southern Africa, according to The New York Times. The researchers also identified tracks from a new dinosaur that was a quadruped herbivore, which they named Afrodelatorrichnus ellenbergeri.

“Dinosaur tracks usually get most of the attention, but I think it’s remarkable to think that we had mammal ancestors that had to endure volcanic eruptions, asteroid impacts and other environmental changes in the deep past, and if they didn’t, we wouldn’t be here today,” says paleontologist Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh who was not involved in the study in remarks to The New York Times.

E.M. Bordy et al., “Tracking the Pliensbachian-Toarcian Karoo firewalkers: Trackways of quadruped and biped dinosaurs and mammaliaforms,” PLOS ONE, 15:e0226847, 2020.

Amy Schleunes is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at aschleunes@the-scientist.com.